Situated in Southeast Bulgaria, the town of Nessebar is part of the Burgas province. It lies 38 km northeast of Burgas and 360km from Sofia. Nessebar is the administrative center of the municipality of Nessebar. The Old Town was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1983.
Geography and Economy
Nessebar is located in the northeastern part of the Burgas province. The old town is situated on the Nessebar Peninsula. The new town lies to the west, 15m above sea level. The two are linked by a narrow man-made isthmus. The seaside strip is subject to abrasion and surrounds the Nessebar Peninsula to the south and north. From the Kamchiya River to Cape Emine the coast is slightly indented. Nessebar has a Mediterranean climate. The mean winter temperature is 2.4 degrees C; in the summer (July) it is 23 degrees C.
North of Nessebar runs the Hadjiska river which flows into the Black Sea.
Nessebar is an attractive Black sea resort with lots of hotel complexes, holiday homes, and camping sites. Industries: souvenirs, foodstuffs, construction, vine-growing, grain, vegetables and technical crops. Fishing and livestock breeding are also well developed. The Nessebar harbor and station are of regional importance.
Nessebar is one of the most ancient towns in Europe. It was built on the site of a Thracian settlement dating back to the Late Bronze Age. Later it became a Greek polis. In 812 Nessebar was conquered by Khan Krum but Knyaz Boris ceded it to Byzantium. Tsar Simeon I restored Nessebar to the Bulgarian Kingdom. The old name Mesemvria continued to be used even after the 11th century when the town was renamed Nessebar. In the ensuing ages Nessebar repeatedly passed from Bulgarian to Byzantine control and vice versa. It became a cultural center during the reign of Ivan Alexander.
In 1366 the crusaders led by Amadeus VI of Savoy took Nessebar. In 1452-53 the town was seized by the Turks. During the 18th-19th century grain trade flourished because of the favorable geographic location. After the Liberation from Ottoman domination Nessebar declined to a small vine-growing and fishing town.
Places to see
The town of Nessebar abounds in tourist sites of national cultural and historical importance.
On the northwestern side of the Nessebur Peninsula is a fortress wall and remains of the gate, about 2m high. The wall is dated to the 8th century B.C. It was made of hewn stones bound with mud. It is believed that the earliest settlers of this area were Thracians. They fortified their settlement.
The local archaeological museum was established in 1956. The first exposition was arranged in the Church of St. John the Baptist. Today the museum is housed in a separate building in 1994. The exhibition area consists of a lobby and four halls. Here is the exposition Nessebar through the Ages. It displays monuments featuring Nessebar from the Antiquity to the Middle Ages.
The Church of St. Stephen also known as the New Metropolis was built during the 11th-13th century. It was made of stone blocks and bricks. In the 16th century it was extended to the west and a narthex was added in the 18th century. The plan of the temple is that of a three-nave basilica; the middle nave stands above the others. Its eastern and western sections were elevated by pediments.
The Church of St. John Aliturgetos built in the 14th century is a cross-vaulted structure with three altar apses. It marks the peak of Bulgarian sacredt architecture in the Middle Ages. It is 18,50m long and 10,25m wide. The church is not well preserved because of the severe damages it suffered after the earthquake in 1913. Built in the 14th century, the Church of Christ Pantocrator is in the best state of preservation. It is a typical example of the picturesque style in sacred architecture during the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The building has a rectangular plan with a western and a southern entrance. It is 16m long and 6.90 m wide. The façade is broken by niches, arcs, arcatures, cornices, semi-columns , and embellished by polychromatic ceramic and sculptured ornaments typical of the picturesque style of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
The Church of St. John the Baptist built in 10th-11th century is made of hewn stones and mortar. It is 14m long and 10m wide. It has well preserved frescoes, a donor’s portrait from the 14th century and an image of St. Marina from the 17th century.
The Church of St. Spas is a one-nave, one-apse structure completely painted by an anonymous master of the early 17th century. The frescoes render scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. The church is 11.70m long and 5.70m wide.
The Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel is a one-nave, cross-vaulted church with a narthex. It has three entrances . One is situated on the northern wall towards the nave and the other two are at the narthex.
A stone staircase hidden in the western wall leads to a square tower that rose above the narthex. The church is 13.90 m long and 5.30m wide.
The Church of St. Paraskeva was built in the 13th-14th century from hewn stone blocks alternating with bricks. The church, 15m long and 6m wide, has one nave and a narthex.
The Church of St. Sophia is located in what presumably was the old center of Nessebar. It is also called the Old Metropolis. Originally, it was an example of early Christian architecture (4th-5th century). Its present appearance goes back to the early 9th century. The church is a three-nave basilica with a semi-circular apse. On the outside it has three walls, with a narthex and an atrium. In the immediate vicinity of the Old Metropolis is the Church of St. Dimiter. It is believed that it was built in the 11th century as a family church. It has a cross-vaulted, square and three-apse plan.
The small one-nave Church of St. Theodor, 8.70m long and 4.15m wide, houses an art gallery.
The Church of the Holy Mother of God Eleusa is located on the northern side of the peninsula. It is a three-nave structure built in the 6th century. It is 28m long and 18m wide. Today the church is partially restored.
About two thirds of the early Byzantine Thermae has been investigated and five premises, a central hall and a corridor have been discovered. The remaining part is situated beneath the neighboring houses and streets. The Thermae were built in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I the Great ( 527- 565).
The premises were supplied with water by pipes coming from the western part of the building. Later on (5th-6th century) an underground water-supply system was built that encompassed the whole town. In the early 9th century the Thermae were renovated and began to be used for residential and economic purposes.
There are over a hundred restored houses in Nessebar featuring the National Revival style in architecture. One of them is on Tsar Ivan Alexander Street. The second floor is painted with whitewashed. More houses of this kind can be seen around the Old Metropolis and the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel., e.g. the Nakov and Vardaliev houses. The ethnographic museum is located in the Moskoyani house.
The windmills are the symbol of Nessebar.
Nessebar boasts a great number of valuable monuments from the Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the National Revival. There is an ancient fortress wall, a gate and a tower. The old metropolis dedicated to St. Sophia goes back to early Christianity (4th-5th centuries) and so do the remains of the basilicas of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Mother of God Eleusa.
The churches of Christ Pantocrator, St. John the Baptist, St. Paraskeva, St. John Aliturgetos, and the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel are from the 11th-14th century. They have sculptured and ceramic ornaments. The Church of St. Stephen, also known as the Church of the Holy Mother of God or the New Metropolis , houses a precious fresco from the 11th century and a woodcarved iconostasis from 1896.
There are about sixty houses from the National Revival period in Nessebar: Captain Pavel’s house, Chimbulev’s house, the Bogotov, Lambrinov and Rusiev houses. Situated along the cobbled streets in the Old Town, they feature the characteristic Black Sea architecture of this period.
There also three old windmills, a fountain from the National Revival as well as a Turkish bath.
Today Nessebar hosts a great variety of cultural events: a Balkan festival of films and television programs for children and youth, an ethnic festival etc. Other landmarks are: a community theatre, a cinema hall, Yana Luskova Reading Club, Old Nessebar Museum, an ethnographic exposition at the Moskoyani house, and a vocational school of tourism. During the tourist season several open-air cinemas are opened.
Nessebar Gold Treasure
Archaeological excavations in 1958 yielded jewelry from the 16th century. The total weight of the gold treasure is 275g. It consists of two necklaces, two medallions, five bracelets and six rings. One of the medallions represents a coin minted in Salzburg in 1547. It is believed that it was imported from Austria. Similar jewelry can be seen on portraits by Western European painters from the 16th century. The other pieces were made by local masters. It looks like the treasure belonged to a wealthy citizens of Nessebar who maintained trade contacts with the Habsburg Empire.
Early in 2003 the American electronic journal Space announced that a research team headed by the Bulgarian scientist Professor Dimiter Susselov discovered the farthest planet to the Earth. Professor Susselov reported on his discovery at the congress of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.
The Bulgarian scientist is head of the research team at the Harvard Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics and professor of astronomy at Harvard University.
The newly discovered planet is allegedly almost as large as Jupiter. It lies about 5000 light- years from the Earth. The planet has a hot climate. It was detected by the so called search-transit method. It involves measuring the luminosity (magnitude of brightness) of a star and the way it changes when another cosmic body passes in front of it. Thus, the search-transit detected a planet outside the Solar System. According to Professor Susselov the search-transit method ushered in a new era of space research and broadened its range. Until then astronomers could discover planets situated at a distance not exceeding 160 light- years from the Earth. The new method could increase the number of stars to over 100 million. So far about 40 000 planets have been studied. The new method was approved for use in the Kepler Mission of NASA searching for planets with the size of the Earth.
Dimiter Susselov was born in Nessebar where he obtained his primary education. He finished high school in Burgas. At the congress in Seattle Professor Susselov stated proudly that he is a product of the Bulgarian schools of physics, astronomy and mathematics established at the University of Sofia and the Bulgarian Academy of Science.
Open Monday-Friday 9:00 am- 7:00 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 9:00 am 1:00 pm; 1:30 pm-6:00pm
Church of St. Stephen
Open Monday- Friday: 9:00 am-7:00pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 9:00am-1:00pm; 1:30pm-6:00pm
Church of St. Spas
Open Monday-Friday: 10:00am- 1:30pm; 2:00pm – 5:00 pm
Saturdays and Sundays: 10:00am – 3:00pm